SPEAR: ‘THE KING OF ALL HANDHELD WEAPONS’

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Nicolas (right) executes a vertical block against his opponent’s high line attack.

Nicolas (right) executes a vertical block against his opponent’s high line attack.

Sibat, is the general Filipino term for spear. Sibat is a noun while sibatin, which means “to spear” is a verb. The weapon is also known by other names considering the number of dialects spoken in the country. In the islands of Negros, for instance, it is known as bangkaw. Just like in other cultures of the world, the spear is one of the Filipinos’ oldest weapons used in warfare and hunting. Its use by native warriors was noted by Spaniard and American chroniclers alike.

The spear was considered by many as the “king of handheld weapons” because of its formidable reach. In the Philippines, it could be observed that the spears of the highland tribes of northern Luzon are generally shorter than those used by Muslim tribes at the southern tip of the archipelago. The Filipinos’ combative use of the spear is less flamboyant compared to the methods of Chinese and Japanese martial arts.

The most potent attribute of the spear is that it can function both as a close quarter weapon and a missile weapon. In close quarter combat, the various parts of the spear could be used for either offense or defense; the point can stab and rip through flesh while the shaft can block attacks or inflict blunt trauma. Thrown at an opponent, the spear is a fearsome projectile. Cold Steel’s head honcho Lynn Thompson, in his article “King of Weapons—The Spear,” wrote, “A good sharp spear, measuring 6 feet in length and weighing 2 lbs. or more, can easily be stabbed through the toughest hide to create a wound channel two feet long by three inches wide.”

Antonio Pigafetta, who witnessed the death of Ferdinand Magellan while battling the native army of LapuLapu described in his chronicles the types of spears used by the ancient Filipinos, he wrote, “They replied that if we had lances they had lances of bamboo and stakes hardened with fire.” These types of spears were still utilized by Katipuneros during the Philippine Revolution and Filipino bolo men of the Second World War.


While pointed bamboo or buho and fire hardened wood were the most common material used for spears in the Philippines, the forging of steel blades has been a long tradition among the Igorots of northern Luzon. The Igorots have special spear blades for fighting, hunting, slaughtering an animal and ceremonial practices. On the latter, Paul Kekai Manansala in “Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan,” noted, “In the Philippines, ceremonial spears are used to frighten away malevolent anitos or spirits from the land of the dead.” The datus of pre-colonial Philippines were also believed to possess arcane powers and a spear is among the magical objects that he may own, “Panlus was a spear or G-string which cause leg pains or swelling in the victim as soon as he stepped over it,” wrote William Henry Scott in “Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society.”

Originally published in fmapulse.com.

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